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Homegrown: Cukui Music Festival Reps The Bay With Rey Res, IAMSU, Roller Coasters

In Music
HYPHY HEARTBREAKER: Leader of the East Bay's HBK Gang hip-hop crew, IAMSU headlines the inaugural Cukui Music Festival.

HYPHY HEARTBREAKER: Leader of the East Bay's HBK Gang hip-hop crew, IAMSU headlines the inaugural Cukui Music Festival.

After working for years with the Island Reggae Festival, hosted annually at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds, the San Jose-based streetwear brand Cukui is going solo to bring the South Bay a music festival that boasts a number of big names in reggae, hip-hop and Latin rock.

With a storefront in Japantown, Cukui’s aesthetic has always straddled Chicano and Pacific Islander cultures, and their debut music festival clearly reflects those influences. The Cukui Music Festival, which pops off Sep. 3 at Great America, gives ticketholders a bill featuring a number of local and national acts—plus access to the amusement park for the day. Make sure not to be standing in line for Drop Tower when these acts take the stage.

J Boog
As a Samoan-American living in Long Beach, J Boog knows a thing or two about life on the sand. It makes sense, then, that he is one of the biggest voices in island music these days. Taking in everything from the dreamy vocals of Iz, to the fast-spitting style of Jamaican dancehall, Boog mixes up all orders of breezy sounds into a potent tropical cocktail that goes down smooth. Take his 2011 hit, “Let’s Do It Again,” which brings the laidback, soulful sounds of Hawaii to the club, with a mellow reggae verse that gives way to a rhythmic dancehall pre-chorus, before settling right back into the sincere and sweetly lilting hook: “Nice to know you/let’s do it again.” The line is so infectious, Guamanian singer Pia Mia used it in her own song, “Do It Again,” which features both Tyga and Chris Brown. Pia Mia’s version might have over 65 million plays on YouTube, but it all started with J Boog.  

After a number of notable features on tracks by Wiz Khalifa, 2 Chainz, and YG, Iamsu! has been making a strong case for his own material. The Richmond-bred rapper has nine mixtapes to his name and just dropped his second proper release of 2016, 6 Speed. It’s the emcee’s third official album, and it finds the HBK member sounding confident—even at his most introspective. In an era where reflective rappers like Drake, Chance and Future are all commanding huge audiences, Iamsu! is poised to be one of the next big names in hip-hop. His casual, self-assured style also makes him a perfect fit for Cukui, which has built its lineup around black and brown musicians who want to bring the good times to the South Bay.

With more than a decade of music-making under their belt, Ozomatli are the highest-profile artist at Cukui. Since their start in 1995, Ozomatli have been stretching the confines of Latin rock as much as possible, bringing in elements the Americas and beyond. They’ve appeared on an episode of Sex and the City, composed music for video games and performed for President Barack Obama. Reggae has always been a fundamental building block in the Ozomatli sound, which means they’ll blend well with the other artists at the festival. But few musical influences have been off the table during their accomplished career. Previous iterations of the group have even included rappers like Jurassic 5’s Chali 2na, Tre Hardson from the Pharcyde, and the renowned turntablist, Cut Chemist.

Rey Res
Rey Resurreccion is one of San Jose’s hardest hustling rappers and producers. Working out of his studio in Japantown, he’s made beats for the Living Legends, Zion I and members of Hieroglyphics. His 2015 ode to San Jose, Heart of the City, features a number of collaborations with well-loved local turntablist Cutso (who is performing a DJ set at Cukui) and showcases his trademark melding of the California g-funk sound, OutKast, and backpack hip-hop, like Hiero and De La Soul. “The Story,” from Heart of the City, tells his parents’ experiences as Filipino immigrants in 1970s. The standout track highlights both his narrative skills as a rapper, and his wide-ranging ear as a beat-maker, as it features a sample from the Jackson 5’s “I Wanna Be Where You Are” laid over the top of a serpentine harpsichord line.

Cukui Music Festival
Sep 3, 10am-10pm, $60-$85
Great America, Santa Clara

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